Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Does better information about hospital quality affect patients’ choice? Empirical findings from Germany

Wübker, Ansgar and Sauerland, Dirk and Wübker, Achim (2008): Does better information about hospital quality affect patients’ choice? Empirical findings from Germany.

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Abstract

Background: Economic theory strongly suggests that better information about the quality of care affects patients’ choice of health service providers. However, we have little empirical evidence about the impact of information provided on provider’s choice in Germany. Problem: In Germany, we recently find publicly available information about hospital quality. For example, 50 percent of the hospitals in the Rhine-Ruhr area do now publish their quality data voluntarily in a comprehensive, understandable and well prepared publication. Empirically, we see a strong demand for this publication. However, we do not have information so far, if – and how – this information affect patients’ choice of hospitals. Data and methodology: We take cross sectional time series data from more than 700.000 patients in the Rhine-Ruhr area and in the Cologne-Bonn area (control group) for the time period 2003 to 2006, i.e. 16 quarters. We examine whether the publication of quality information affects market shares and number of cases of the hospitals as well as travelling distance that patients accept to get to the hospital of their choice. In order to account for hospital-specific heterogeneity, we use fixed and random effects models. Results: First: Hospitals, which publish their quality data voluntarily, do attract more patients – compared to such hospital, that do not publish their quality data. Second: In the group of the publishing hospitals, hospitals with a higher than average quality slightly increased their market shares, whereas hospitals with a lower than average quality lost market shares. Conclusion: The provision of quality data has a significant impact on hospital choice: a higher quality leads to a higher demand. Based on these finding decision makers in hospitals have strong incentives (i) to make quality information publicly available and (ii) to keep their quality of care high.

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